Charity founder pleads guilty to swindling donors

Charity founder pleads guilty to swindling donorsThe mastermind of a sham charity has admitted pocketing more than $2 million in vehicular donations meant to help disabled children, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced.

Shoba Bakhsh, of Queens-based "Hope for the Disabled Kids, Inc.," was arrested and pled guilty to charges she lied to donors and misused funds for herself and her family. The action marked the latest round the Attorney General's ongoing investigation into car donation charities.

Hope for the Disabled Kids, which has been shut down, accepted thousands of cars and generated more than $2 million in revenue between 2001 and 2009. Bakhsh promised donors that more than 90% of all donations would go directly toward helping disabled children. But no funds solicited between 2007 and 2009 were used for any legitimate charitable purposes, and Bakhsh destroyed all records prior to 2007and filed false paperwork.

"This individual manipulated donors and exploited children with serious medical needs in order to enrich herself and her family," said Attorney General Cuomo. "As a result of her actions, millions of dollars that should have gone to help disabled children were instead spent on department store bills and real estate. As our investigation continues, my office encourages New Yorkers to be generous and informed donors."

On its website, Hope for the Disabled Kids claimed:
  • Funds will "be utilized to benefit disabled children by purchasing medical equipment"
  • Funds will "help pay for medical expenses for families who are unable to afford [them]"
  • Funds will "purchase books, toys, games and food during the holidays to distribute to children in hospitals."
Bakhsh instead spent funds donated to Hope for the Disabled Kids on herself and her family, including:
  • Almost $500,000 on Florida real estate and payment of real estate taxes on properties owned by Bakhsh and her husband
  • Payments on two different Macy's credit card accounts
  • School tuition for Bakhsh's children
Bakhsh's personal checking account was also enriched by cash deposits of nearly $250,000 between 2007 and 2009 -- when she reportedly earned less than $50,000 per year at Hope for the Disabled Kids.

The fraudulent charity solicited automotive donations through print advertising and its website, tricking unsuspecting donors into believing all but 10% of the proceeds from their vehicles would benefit disabled children. Bakhsh also posted forged testimonials on the charity's website to make it appear as if it had made legitimate contributions to hospitals and other health care facilities.

Legitimate charities involved in the car donation industry solicit contributions in the form of used vehicles, which they then sell to raise funds for humanitarian causes. The attorney general recently sent subpoenas to 16 charities, fundraisers, and individuals involved in the car donation industry, and sued to shut down another sham charity, Feed the Hungry, Inc., for misusing funds meant for the homeless.

New Yorkers looking for legitimate car donation charities – or who wish to report charitable fraud – should visit
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